How’s Trump Going To Pay Back All Those Gun Votes? He Won’t.

Every four years the GOP trots out something from their ‘family values’ arsenal – abortion, school prayer, traditional marriage – to help define their electoral message and in 2016 they trotted out guns.  Not that these stalwart defenders of a pretended status quo ever really reward their supporters with anything beyond attempts to cut taxes for themselves and you would think that after thirty-five years of getting nothing that those legions of fervent followers would finally begin to realize that top-down, right-wing populism is nothing but a big, fat con.

trump5
           And in the aftermath of this election the biggest, single con job of all is the one which Trump sold at every, single campaign stop that he made, namely, the idea that he’s going to change the landscape when it comes to how America owns and uses guns.  I watched at least a dozen of his campaign rallies, and whenever the crowd got tired of yelling ‘lock her up,’ he would veer away from mumbling about some trade deal and remind the audience that: a) he would ‘defend’ their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights;’ and, b) he wanted a national, concealed-carry law, and, c) on his very first day in office he would eliminate all ‘gun-free’ zones.

So in the interests of giving my friends in the gun violence prevention (GVP) community some guidance on what to look for in a Trump presidency and what can be dismissed as nothing but a variation on the traditional GOP social-messaging mirage, I thought I would subject each of Trump’s claims to some degree of scrutiny to see what comes out.  And what comes out, as I suspect you may already know, is that none of those statements bear any resemblance to facts or the truth.

At some point during the campaign Trump released a list of judges from whom he would choose a SCOTUS nominee, and he made the point of saying that every, single candidate would ‘defend’ 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ This was nothing more than political hyperbole nonsense since the NRA decided long ago that every registered Democrat represents a ‘threat’ to those rights, but the fact is that the only post-Heller 2nd-Amendment case decided by the SCOTUS while Scalia was alive was a case in which a majority said that the law which gave the government full and complete regulatory authority over gun sales was as fully constitutional as any law could be.  So much for a ‘conservative’ SCOTUS defending 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

As for a national CCW law, no doubt the NRA and its Congressional allies will once again run this one up the legislative flagpole, but like the veritable monkey who wrapped his tail around that same flagpole, such a law would require reconciling the state-level CCW regulations of all 50 individual states because unlike local driving laws, local gun laws from state to state are not the same.

Finally, when Trump says he’ll ‘immediately’ get rid of gun-free zones, maybe someone might remind him that Executive Orders apply only to the actions of Executive agencies, but cannot be used to change laws.  And there happens to be not one, but two federal laws that establish K-12 schools as gun-free zones, neither of which are going to be eliminated just because Trump wants to get up in front of a crowd or go on Twitter or YouTube and play his version of Macho Man.

I’m not saying that Gun-sense Nation has a friend in Trump.  We don’t.  Make no mistake: as long as he panders to the Right, and I’m not about to bother distinguishing between the Right and the Alt-Right, he’s an opponent of any, even the most benign attempts to reduce gun violence to any degree.  And going forward, Gun-sense Nation needs to respond forcefully to every effort by Trump and Gun-nut Nation to legitimize the violence caused by guns. Trump may have a loud voice, but it’s not the only voice in town.

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What’s Gun-Sense Nation Going To Do Under The Trump Regime? Not Back Down, That’s For Sure.

Now that the dust has settled and the smoke cleared, Gun-sense Nation has to figure out how to move forward during the presidency of Donald Trump. Back when nobody realized how much Nate Silver’s predictions were nothing more than hot air on toast, there was almost a giddy-like atmosphere among gun violence prevention (GVP) advocates imagining an unthinkable political alignment of Hillary in the White House and a Chuck Schumer-led Senate on Capitol Hill.  Expanded background checks, banning assault rifles, scrapping PLCAA, anything was possible. No wonder Smith & Wesson lost nearly $300 million in market value over the last three days.  Who needs to buy another gun now that the gun-grabbers have been banished for good?

gun control          Except they haven’t been banished at all.  Just because the 2nd Amendment gives Americans the Constitutional right to own a gun, doesn’t mean there’s any Constitutional requirement to buy a gun.  So it’s back to the drawing board, this time with a sharpened understanding that social change, serious social change, profoundly serious social change is never a process that takes place overnight. The task is long, arduous and rife with unanticipated twists and turns of all kinds.  So if you came into this process because someone promised you a rose garden, you should have stayed home.

After all, what are we talking about when we use the term ‘gun violence?’  Most people define it by the number of victims killed (35,000+) or injured (75,000+) each year with guns. But it’s much more than that.  Guns, owning guns and using guns represents a national culture in this country, one of the most powerful and deep-rooted cultural traditions that this country ever had.  And I’m not just thinking about Kit Carson and Daniel Boone using their Kentucky long rifles to open the frontier, or General Patton saying that the M-1 Garand was the “greatest battle implement of all time,” or Clint sticking his 44-magum in the bad guy’s face and saying, “Go ahead, make my day.” No other country celebrates Christmas by sticking a b-b gun under the Yule tree, no other country spends upwards of $6 billion each year on video games that let someone shoot someone else with a Glock. And of course this is the only country in the entire world which gives just about all its citizens free access to real guns.

And that’s exactly the point.  Because there would be no gun violence, not a single death or injury, if there were no guns.  So we can argue amongst ourselves about which regulation or which law will reduce gun violence a bit here or there. And I’m not trying to say or imply that new regulations are no better than no regulations at all.  What I am saying is that really reducing gun violence will require a massive cultural change, and it’s not the kind of cultural change which GVP advocates blithely refer to when, for example, they throw up the ‘success’ of something like MADD.

Because nobody in their right mind would ever argue that getting into a car drunk is a good thing.  But plenty of Americans, probably a majority of Americans, now believe that owning a gun makes you safe.  So changing this culture is not just changing how we think about guns, it’s changing how we think about why we need to have guns, and you don’t change culture by citing this statistic or that.

A solid piece of new research shows that 10 million gun owners have entered the gun market over the last twenty years. These people, and the folks who may be thinking about coming into the gun market perhaps represent a population whose views on gun culture are not yet firmly fixed. Gun-sense Nation needs to reach this audience and help create an alternate culture in which guns are neither necessary or even relevant to the real issues faced by people in their daily lives. And this task lies ahead.

You Might Think The NRA Supports Trump, But They Really Support The NRA.

I’m going to way out on a limb and before I saw myself off, assume that HRC is going to win. I know, I know, the old evil eye.  But if every poll except that crazy LA Times tracking poll is somehow correct, then it looks like this one can be put to bed. Which brings me to ask myself (and all of you) the following question: If Trump-o really gets stomped, what does this result portend for the future of the NRA?

trump4           Because the NRA has done several unprecedented things in this election cycle which deserve to be better understood.  To begin, the organization endorsed Trump at their annual meeting in April, and turned what is usually a stop-off for all the national Republican candidates into a showcase for just one.  Then they followed this unprecedented move by ponying up more than $21 million for television ads which, according to our buddy Tim Johnson, is almost twice as much as they have ever spent on any previous Presidential campaign.

For me, the most inexplicable thing about all this spending is that it’s not as if the NRA’s membership needs to be convinced to vote for Trump.  Talk about preaching to the converted, isn’t Gun-nut Nation and Make America Great Again basically one and the same? And while states like Florida and North Carolina are important swing states where lots of people own guns, what makes them swing states is the potential voter turnout by demographics that don’t own guns.

Given the degree to which Hillary has been the NRA’s favorite punching-bag for longer than I can recall, and given the fact that the average NRA member can be counted on to vote for the Red Team no matter who is quarterbacking the squad, why did the NRA go so far out on a limb for Trump? Or to put it another way, what did they hope to achieve? You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that, if nothing else, Clinton really represents a threat to Gun-nut Nation far beyond what has previously been faced. She is the first blue national candidate to make gun control a central plank of her campaign; and she didn’t do this just to outflank Bernie, she did it because she knows that in a national campaign against someone like Trump, trying to present herself as a ‘defender’ of the 2nd Amendment is a waste of time.

But I also have to assume that at some point Trump made it clear to the NRA leadership that, if elected, he would consider himself to be their President in terms of advancing and supporting a political agenda that meets NRA’s needs.  And this agenda would primarily consist of a national concealed-carry permit valid in all 50 states, as well as using the 2nd Amendment as a litmus-test for nominations to the nation’s highest court.

The only problem in this little NRA-Trump love fest, of course, is that even back in April, the polls showed that Trump’s chances of actually succeeding Obama were slim to none.  So why does the NRA continue to dump money into his campaign when the campaign has become nothing more than the candidate claiming that he didn’t say and do what we all know he said and did?

Because what the NRA hopes will come out of this campaign is a feeling on the part of Gun-nut Nation that America’s oldest civil rights organization is really fighting for them. In 2013 the revenue from membership dues was $175 million, in 2014 it dropped to $128 mill.  So in 2013 they ended up more than $50 million in the black, in 2014 they lost $35 million bucks.

And the greater the victory margin (we hope) for Hillary, the more the NRA can say that when it comes to protecting the 2nd Amendment, they’re the only game in town. In fact, their advertising campaign isn’t about Donald Trump; it’s about the NRA.

If Hillary Wins Big, Will There Be A New Gun Bill? I’m Not So Sure.

Lets’ say for the sake of argument that HRC kicks his ass on November 8th.  And she does such a good job of ass-kicking that the Senate turns blue.  And the ass-kicking is so remarkably well done that the House comes within three or four seats of also no longer being red. Now you probably couldn’t have imagined such a scenario just a few short weeks ago, but Trump just keeps saying what he shouldn’t say to the point that the unthinkable is no longer shorthand for a Trump victory next month, but is what some of us are beginning to whisper as regards a blowout victory for HRC.

hillary3           And if this does happen, you can bet that one of the first orders of business will be sending a gun bill up to the Hill that has a fairly good chance of getting passed.  And you can further bet that if there is such a bill, that its core provision will be revival of the extension of background checks to downstream transfers and sales, not only because this was the core of the post-Sandy Hook bill which almost made it through the Senate, but it’s an idea which even Gun-nut Nation, or at least some part of the Nation, appears to support.

Last year a CBS/New York Times poll asked the following question: “Do you favor or oppose a federal law requiring background checks on all potential gun buyers?” A whopping 92% said ‘yes.’  And a positive response to this question was even registered by 87% of the poll respondents who identified themselves as Republicans, which for an issue as divisive as gun control, that’s about as near to absolute unanimity as you’re going to get.

Since there’s nothing like voting for a bill which appears to have near-universal support, you might think that after more than twenty years of wrangling over the extent to which gun regulations can be implemented that will keep guns out of the ‘wrong hands,’ that finally some common sense will prevail, the NRA will make an attempt but not too much of an attempt to keep expanded background checks from becoming law of the land and – glory hallelujah – thy will be done. Duh, not so fast.  If you think for one minute that Gun-nut Nation will roll over and play dead, even if a lot of gun nuts are telling pollsters that on the issue of background checks they really don’t care, then you don’t really understand how gun owners think about guns or why the NRA can continue to defeat legislation that even many of its members are willing to let fly.

In 2012 (Sandy Hook happened in December) the NRA collected $107 million in dues.  In 2013, while Washington argued back and forth over extending background checks, revenue from dues shot up to $175 million bucks. The following year when the heat was off, revenue from dues drifted back down to $128 million. So how do you explain the fact that the NRA fought an unyielding battle against extending background checks, virtually all Americans agreed that it was a good idea, and yet dues collected by the NRA went up by a staggering 60%?

I’ll tell you how to explain it.  There is simply a complete disconnect in the brains of gun owners between their ownership of guns and the 115,000+ deaths and injuries which occur each year because of guns.  After all, you can’t buy a gun legally unless you pass a background check, so by definition, with the exception of suicides, law-abiding gun owners rarely shoot themselves or others with their guns. And even though it’s not true, most people believe that if someone wants to commit suicide it will happen, access to a gun or not.

So if the NRA wants to wage an all-out effort to defeat a new gun bill next year, they’ll get the same support from their members that they always get, and that will be the most active support.  Will they also be passively supported by the millions of gun owners who aren’t dues-paying members?  I’ll take the short odds on that one, too.

And If You Are Worried About What Trump Would Mean To GVP, Here’s What You Might Do.

Apropos of the previous column I just posted about the election, one of the really energetic GVP activists just sent me a link to the page on Hillary’s website where you can find out, join and otherwise get involved in a grass-roots election event near where you live.  Here’s the link:  https://www.hillaryclinton.com/events/.

hillary            Then I asked myself the following question: Self, what kind of a ground game do you think the two candidates really have?  And I figure that I can get some kind of answer by putting some search zip codes into Hillary’s events list to see what comes out.  So the first state I stuck in was Georgia, which listed a few events in Atlanta and Savannah, but then a whole load of events in Jacksonville which, if you live in Atlanta, is really not that far down the road.

Then I stuck in Florida, and another very impressive-looking list came up, but most of the events are actually invitations to come and work at phone banks that are located in various campaign offices throughout the state.  What surprised me about the listings for Florida was the underrepresentation for Dade and Broward Counties, which happen to cover Miami and the large Hispanic populations whose votes was what made Florida into a blue state in 2012. On the other hand, the neighborhood canvassing operation in Orlando looms pretty deep.

Now let’s take a look at Utah which, according to this morning’s newspaper is another red state that may be ‘in play.’  There are only 3 events listed for that state and they all happen to be taking place in Colorado, one of which happens to be in Vail. I like Vail in the Summer when there’s nobody around and rooms that go for three hundred a night during the Winter months can be had right now for fifty bucks or less.  But if I lived in Utah I wouldn’t be driving right now to Vail.

Finally, another ‘in play’ state is North Carolina which a month ago was solidly in Street Thug’s camp but now but now, like everything else he had going for him appears to be slipping away.  Lots of events in the Tar Heel state too, but almost all of them right now in Durham and Chapel Hill. Gee, what a surprise that Hillary should have strong support in The Triangle, but it’s the rest of the state that really counts.

So the Hillary ground game has some strong spots, some weak patches, but at least there’s a game.  On the other side, the Official Street Thug website lets you register for text messages, donate from ten to one hundred bucks, and request tickets for his upcoming events, all of which over the next 3-4 days are taking place in North Carolina, Florida and PA.

If I were able to be objective and detached from this whole campaign, I could view it not just as a contest between tone and content, but a contest in which one candidate seems intent on grinding it out through a combination of big-crowd events, smaller, community-size activities and the traditional neighborhood canvassing and telephone banks; while the other candidate appears convinced that mega-sized crowd venues and social media posts is all that he needs.

As I said earlier today, I believe that most if not all the folks who usually vote Republican will vote Republican again; even if they hold their nose while they are pulling that red lever their vote for Street Thug will still count.

So GVP, it’s time to get it on.  Time to get to work.  Time to go to an event, help plan an event, help host an event and most of all, talk to as many people as you can.  Here’s the link in case you need it again: https://www.hillaryclinton.com/events/. And again: https://www.hillaryclinton.com/events/.  And again: https://www.hillaryclinton.com/events/.

 

 

Trump, Orlando And Gun Violence: It’s Not About Hatred, It’s About Fear.

I never thought that polls would tell us very much this early in a Presidential campaign, but what we see over the next week or so may prove to be a serious litmus-test for the remainder of the year.  Because if Street Thug’s numbers go up, we’re are in for a rough five months; if his numbers stay the same or continue to drift downward, he may have finally shot his wad. And what I’m referring to, of course, are his comments about Muslims and immigration following the Pulse attack.  Because if nothing else, he appears to be building his entire campaign on one issue and one issue only, and that’s the issue of fear.

trump2           First, what he is saying about immigration simply isn’t true.  We haven’t even taken in the 10,000 Syrian refugees we agreed to receive, other countries (e.g., Canada) have taken in many more.  We aren’t being ‘overrun’ by Muslim immigrants any more than we are being overrun by anyone else.  And the idea of ‘building a wall’ is this year’s substitute for the 2008 riff, ‘drill baby, drill.’

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that if this desperate attempt by Street Thug to capitalize on fears engendered by Orlando falls flat, then we can all just relax and put November 8th out of our minds.  This guy is a threat, he’s a menace, and he needs not just to be beaten, he needs to be beaten bad.  But I’d rather try to figure out how to whup him when I have to look back over my shoulder to see his ugly mug, rather than letting him look back over his shoulder at me. Anyway, as I was saying before I interrupted myself.

Want to know why Trump so dearly loves the 2nd Amendment and never tires of reminding his audiences about the enduring value of walking around with a gun?  Because public opinion polls show that all those guns that were bought by the public since Obama took office were bought because of fear; fear of crime, fear of terrorism, fear of having the guns taken away, fear of God knows what.  And fear is a very powerful, very compelling emotion. And when it comes to a politics, fear can trump facts and insight every time.

The first witness who testified in 1963 against Eichmann in Jerusalem was an old friend and academic colleague, Professor Salo Baron.  And when he was asked to explain the extraordinary degree of violence represented by the Holocaust, he answered that the murder of 5 million Jews was based on fear, or what he called the ‘dislike of the unlike.’  Most of the comments coming out of Orlando are linking the ‘hatred’ of the LGBT lifestyle to this incredible act of gun violence, with the former seen as the causal emotion behind the latter event. And this may be true, but let’s step back for a second and see how this will play out in the Presidential campaign.

In his appearance at St. Anselm’s College, Street Thug specifically disavowed prejudice against gays.  He said, “Our nation stands together in solidarity with the members of Orlando’s LGBT community,” and I guess that includes him as well.  But he then went on to make one false statement after another about Muslims and immigration, with the intent of making sure that everyone knows that only a ‘tough’ guy like him understands and can respond to our fears.

Mass shootings make us afraid.  We become afraid to go to public places, we get afraid of letting the kids hang out at the mall.  And calling for a ban on assault rifles doesn’t necessarily respond to those fears.

Gun violence is a terrible kind of violence, but people fear violence more than they fear guns.  So to keep Street Thug out of the Oval Office, we have to come up with ways to help people deal with their fears.  Otherwise, they’ll just go out and buy another gun.

 

 

Can Trump Use The Gun Issue To Win The Presidential Campaign? I’m Not Sure He Can’t.

Before you begin reading my precious prose, go to 270towin.com and set the electoral map as a toss-up. The bottom line is that 10 states with 130 total electoral votes hold the key to who will sit in the Oval Office next year.  Now there could always be a catastrophe or a calamity – Hillary could fall down a flight of stairs and bash her head in, Trump’s jet could miss the runway and everyone’s wiped out.  And neither candidate is yet an actual candidate.

But this electoral map isn’t cut from whole cloth.  It’s about the best guess at this point that anyone can come up with in terms of where the fight for the White House will really take place.  And guess what?  All of those 10 toss-up states have one thing in common, namely, these are states with lots of people who own guns.

trump2           The problem with the surveys that show only one-third of American households containing legal firearms is that a national survey understates gun ownership on a state-by-state basis because the two most populous states – California and New York – are states where guns are heavily regulated and this regulatory environment is a function of the relative lack of legally-owned guns. Taken together, these two states alone count 60 million, or 19% of the country’s population as a whole.  Add four more states – Illinois, Michigan, Joisey and Massachusetts and you’re adding nearly another 40 million.   In other words, 6 states count for one-third of the entire population and none of these states have a lot of residents owning a lot of guns.

Gun-rich states, on the other hand, particularly in the South and the West, have lots of guns per resident but in many cases have more cows than people, and the cows can’t vote.  But when we get into those swing states, while none of them have the kind of gun numbers that you find in red states like Idaho, Wyoming, Kansas or Nebraska, they certainly have a higher percentage of gun-owning residents than states that normally vote blue.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that Trump has actually thought through a single statement that he has made about anything when it comes to planning or managing a national campaign.  What I am saying is that, like it or not, his pandering and lying about the 2nd Amendment may resonate very well in the toss-up states.

The problem with using the gun issue to motivate voters is that there has never been a survey which shows that the gun issue makes any real difference in terms of how people vote.  At best it usually registers 1% – 2% when people are asked to list the most important issue when they go to the polls.  But let’s remember that Trump ties guns to self-defense, and he ties self-defense to all that street violence being committed by “illegals,” and he ties illegals to his promise to build a wall.

And this is exactly what is so dangerous about Trump’s candidacy, because what he has done with the gun issue is use it to bolster what psychiatrists call an ‘overvalued idea,’ namely, an idea that can be channeled into anti-social, violent behavior because the means justify the ends.  The Ku Klux Klan took the anger of marginal whites who felt threatened by free blacks and channeled their anger into organized acts of violence which were seen as a way to keep blacks ‘in their place.’

When Trump exhorts his followers to ‘knock the crap’ out of protestors he is taking the anger that some feel towards people of color or people who communicate in different languages, and channeling that anger into an organized effort to win a political campaign.  And make no mistake: promoting and approving anger leads to violent behavior which leads to promoting and approving the use of guns. And if you think that believing in the 2nd Amendment hasn’t become a code-word for justifying anger and violence, think again.